From Ashely Lenig, written by Janette Lesher
Reprinted from 9/9/19 USDA NRCS PA Weekly News Flash
The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Northumberland County Conservation District (NCCD) offices recently worked together to hold an outreach event in the Warrior Run Watershed as part of the newly selected National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) initiative.
The Warrior Run basin is a priority watershed of the USDA-NRCS and is targeted in the NWQI program. Agriculture is the dominant land use in the Warrior Run Watershed. Riparian buffer zones are nearly nonexistent in the agricultural lands. Livestock also have unlimited access to streambanks in parts of the watershed, resulting in streambank trampling and severe erosion. Producers in the watershed consist of English, Amish, and Mennonite farmers.
As our team began working on a Watershed Plan, we discovered there was a large sector of producers with whom we had not worked. We knew if we wanted to work with them, we needed to get to know them. It was decided to have an ice cream social – homemade, of course!
Recently, we met a landowner whose farm is located next to Warrior Run, so we knew that it was the place we needed to bring farmers together. After explaining our plan to him, he said: “Invite them, and they will come.” Without using any flyers or news releases, the farmer simply invited his neighbors over to his farm.
As we were preparing for this event— expecting 10-15 producers—the landowner told us we had to step up our game, because about 50 people had told him they would attend. Ryan Cherwinski, NCCD Ag Technician, did not disappoint anyone as there was plenty of delicious homemade ice cream to go around.
As NCCD and NRCS staff served ice cream, families sat by the stream. Gary Walters with DEP was gracious enough to demonstrate electro-shocking on the stream. As he began catching fish, the farmers lined up on the stream bank to see what was in the buckets. Clusters of producers started to gather around agency staff to learn about stream health, best management practices, and what we are trying to achieve in the Warrior Run Watershed. As the parents listened and asked questions, the children were able to get their feet wet and help with a macroinvertebrate kick in the stream. NCCD Watershed Specialist Chantel Shambach helped the children identify what they found.
Once the families got back on their bikes and rode home to their farms with a new appreciation of the watershed in which they lived, NRCS and NCCD staff packed up their supplies and left with 50 new friends and many contacts of farmers to visit in the next few weeks. Who would have ever thought that a meeting with no flyers, no PowerPoints, and no set agenda would be successful? Our team had some hesitations but is certainly thrilled with the outcome. We look forward to doing other similar events in the watershed again.
Many thanks to all those on the team who helped make this a successful event:
NCCD Ag Technician – Ryan Cherwinski
NCCD Watershed Specialist – Chantel Shambach
DEP Water Quality Division Chief – Gary Walters
NRCS Civil Engineering Technician – Pam Richardson
NRCS Soil Conservationist – David McCoy
NRCS District Conservationist – Janette Lesher